Birth of a notion

Well, it looks like my first post of 2018 is going to break some of my rules here. One rule is that I shouldn’t just repost a cute Twitter meme, the second rule is that I shouldn’t give undue attention to a tweet that doesn’t give a link to its original source clearly, and the third rule is that I shouldn’t just regurgitate another article that has been on another site that you, faithful Notioner, may already be a fan of. But I’m going to break these rules because I don’t feel like I’ve seen other people in my social media feeds posting about these special little guys, the tweet brought this to a whole new level, and I feel like the article about these special little guys points to a timeframe when a superstition may have been cooked up. “What special little guys?” you may ask. “LUCKY LEMON PIGLETS,” I roar thunderously in response.

Yeah, I had to make a screenshot of the image in question because embedding a tweet with an image is not working here. And that’s also a rule I don’t like to break but I figure we’re so far down the copyright/attribution rabbit hole that it’s easier to explain with words rather than links at this point. So, the blog Grannie Pantries found this delightful creature in an Alcoa corporate-sponsored party booklet, Twitter user 70s Dinner Party reposted it, 70s Dinner Party followers responded with their own special little guys adorable and terrifying, and now if you go into a particular corner of Twitter you will be stampeded with Lemon Pigs.

Then Atlas Obscura stepped in, did some excellent research, and found that lemon pigs are some weird thing that cropped up in the late 1800s and then sort of disappeared (I mean, not really; they just lost popularity, apparently, though how this could happen, I do not know). They were a thing that kids made to amuse themselves, “like ‘walnut witches’ and cornhusk dolls.” And this was the point where I started to feel a little ripped off as a kid, because I was made aware of cornhusk dolls but not of walnut witches and certainly the only 1800s citrus/clove craft I was ever taught was the “make your mother a lovely orange sachet that she will love!” bullshit that we all fell for.

And then Atlas Obscura brought up something more – the fact that the old lemon pigs didn’t have pennies in their mouths, nor were they designated as lucky. AO posits that the Alcoa folks made the lucky part up, and that this is a fake superstition, but… maybe not? Maybe something happened in that short period when they stopped appearing in children’s craft books and the party book? A desperate former copywriter turned stay-at-home mom jammed a penny into her child’s toy’s mouth so the kid wouldn’t cram it up her own nose, and then she immediately got a call from the Alcoa Aluminum Company offering her a $25,000 advance on a party book? I don’t know. All I know is that I look at that pig and I know his luck isn’t fake. That is a magic special little guy.

Etiquette & superstition: spitting

When Benny and I were on vacation a few weeks ago, we stopped in to a motel that we weren’t sure was of the highest caliber. I stayed in the car while Benny went to check out the room, and as I looked up to the second floor balcony, some motel guest spat down onto the driveway. I grimaced. The spitter noticed and stared at me a long while. Then he went inside. We wound up staying in the room directly below his. Nothing bad happened to us that night.

ETIQUETTE: Spitting in public is no longer considered an acceptable practice anywhere in the world. Seriously. It’s not. Read the signs. Everyone everywhere is telling you not to spit in public. You can spit in public if you are tasting wine, if you have inadvertently swallowed a bug, or if you are a camel. Otherwise, keep your fluids to yourself until you can find some privacy. At the very least, spit into a tissue or handkerchief.

“But what about Greek weddings?” you may be saying. “They spit at Greek weddings.” No, they don’t. Not really. They go ftoo ftoo ftoo. Don’t actually spit at the bride. For pete’s sake.

SUPERSTITION: Spit from a fasting person will cure boils, blindness,birthmarks and ringworm. Spit from an angry dog or a weasel is poisonous, and spit from a person who has been tickled to death may be lethal. A person’s spit contains a portion of his soul, so you may or may not want to spread that stuff around, but spitting will ward off the evil eye, and will even get rid of the Devil if you spit right between his horns. Practice your aim, friends.

Photo by darwin Bell on Flickr

Etiquette & superstition: voluntary and involuntary surrender of cream

“Etiquette & superstition: got milk?” actually would have worked quite well here as a title, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s 2017.

ETIQUETTE: If you’re having coffee or tea with someone and they ask you to pass the cream, the polite way to do this is to pick up the cream pitcher by the handle, transfer it to your other hand (grabbing it by the front of the pitcher), and offer it to the requestor with the handle facing them.

If you are at a coffee house, tea room, or diner and you discover that the milk or cream receptacle is empty (either by your actions or someone else’s), tell the waitstaff so that they may refill it. Do not leave a dairy carafe empty for someone else to discover. Seriously; even Urban Dictionary recognizes this as a faux pas. It’s barely one step up from when you were nine and you left the milk carton in the fridge with only a teaspoon of milk left in it.

SUPERSTITION: If you’re a Scandinavian witch, there are a lot of ways you can steal someone’s cream without getting caught.

  1. You can make a troll cat, which sometimes looks like a cat and sometimes looks like a cow’s hairball but totally isn’t, by rolling up a bunch of junk from the floor like fingernail clippings and sawdust and hair, then putting three drops of your blood on the ball and asking for help from Satan.
  2. You can make a milk hare out of an old sock and some wooden pegs for the ears.
  3. You can make a “til-beri” out of a dead man’s rib by rolling the rib up in stolen yarn, hiding it between your breasts, and dribbling Sacrament wine onto it over three consecutive Sundays. Once it’s strong enough from the wine, then you cut a little hole on your thigh and let it suckle from that for a while.

Now you’re ready for some milk-stealing. Just send your little helper out, and they will soon suck up a bunch of milk from your neighbors’ milk troughs and then come back and spit all the milk back out into your milk bucket. Ta da! Milk for days.

Etiquette & superstition: noses


About a week ago I decided in the morning to do an etiquette & superstition post about “triangles,” because I had an etiquette point in mind but decided it was going to be too difficult to find a matching superstition for that exact topic. The vaguer “triangles” subject was going to cover both.

Well, this was all well and good until the evening when I was trying to figure out what the hell my “triangle” etiquette point was going to be about, because of course I hadn’t written it down. I wound up at about 11 p.m. going on Facebook and asking for help from friends for what topic this triangle etiquette thing was supposed to be about. Nothing clicked, and things got pretty weird suggestion-wise.

Benny was snoozing peacefully on the couch as I was muttering, “What is it… what IS it…,” and I guess I was getting a little loud because he asked what I was going on about, and I said, “Etiquette. Triangles. What could that be?” And still half-asleep he said, “Cheese?” And that was it. Benny knows me well.

You’ll notice this post isn’t about triangles. Turns out there aren’t a lot of great superstitions regarding triangles. Let’s move on to noses*.

ETIQUETTE: When cutting a bit of brie from a wedge, it is extremely rude for you to cut straight across the wedge, taking the tip for yourself. This is known as “cutting the nose” off the cheese, and it’s rude because this part is thought of as an especially delicious and creamy part of the cheese. Before this wedge was a wedge, it was part of a circle of cheese, and that tip is what was in the center of that circle.

What you need to do is slice a thin sliver lengthwise along one of the sides of the wedge so that you have some of the center, some of the middle, and some of the outer rind. Oh, and don’t scoop the middle out of the brie, leaving the rind on the plate. Take all of that even if you’re not going to eat the rind (which you really should, I mean come on). I don’t know if this is called picking your nose, but maybe it should be.

SUPERSTITION: A woman’s elbow and a dog’s nose are both cold because when Noah’s Ark sprang a leak, Noah couldn’t find his tools to fix it so he stuck his dog’s nose in the hole. The dog couldn’t breathe, though, so Noah grabbed his wife and jammed her elbow in there. Thanks, Noah.

If you have a nosebleed, you can cure it by stabbing a toad, putting the toad in a sack, and wearing the sack around your neck. Or you can find some moss from a dead man’s head and put that on your face. If both of these are too adventurous for you, you can just take a cold key and press it on your back. Yawn.

Photo by wackystuff on Flickr
*”Why didn’t you just write an etiquette & superstition post about cheese?” you might ask. Well, I already did that. And yes, now I’ve screwed myself if I find a good etiquette tip about noses, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Can I haz important?

My friend Vicki found this posted to the largest banyan tree* in the United States. An important note for an important tree.


Oh geez. This isn’t just an important tree. I just read that in India banyan trees are thought to be inhabited by malevolent spirits. Maybe that’s just Indian banyan trees though, and this pup is fine.

Oh geez, part two. I just read that in Malaysia banyan trees are thought to be inhabited by beings that swing down and terrorize villagers. Maybe this pup is still fine, though. A plush toy isn’t a villager, is it? And again, this isn’t Malaysia. It’s Hawaii.

The only thing I can find about Hawaiian superstitions and banyan trees is that a white woman might be living in the tree somewhere. And I’m sure you can melt her heart with this notice and make her give you back your pup, Kuroki. You definitely melted mine; I think it was the paw print. Best of luck with your quest.

*Settle down; not literally on the tree. That’s clearly a post.

Bring on the heckles

I watched this cartoon this morning, was put off by the gold tooth “hey boss” racial caricature voice as per usual, wrestled with the issue because Buzzy outwits the cat and isn’t portrayed as lazy or stupid, briefly considered giving the whole thing up and just posting a Heckle & Jeckle cartoon, and then decided once again that ignoring the past is a bad idea. For all its faults, I enjoyed this cartoon. I’d be more comfortable if Buzzy had a different voice, but that comfort seems a lot closer allied with a vice than a virtue. Life is complicated, friends.

Not a catamaran

A cat on a boat is supposed to be lucky, but maybe it’s not so lucky to have two cats on a boat.


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